September 20, 2020 Service




Due to copywrite limitations, we are unable to print the words to the songs.  However, our musicians have chosen music to fit the scriptures.  We invite you to look up the words in your worship book and ponder them.  If you do not have a worship book, ponder the words to one of your favourite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have internet may find the songs on YouTube.

This morning, in-person worship resumes at the Morris United Church at 11:00 AM.  Since we are still in the midst of a pandemic and desire to keep each other as safe as possible, we ask that you sanitize your hands when you enter the building.  Masks are mandatory as is social distancing.  We will speak the liturgy but will not be singing the songs.  The musicians will play the music.  You are invited to hum along, move with the beat and meditate on the words.

We realize this is not our desired way to worship, yet worship does not depend upon our outward appearance and distancing.  It is our connection to God and each other that sets our hearts and minds to praise and worship our glorious creator!

If you are not feeling well, we request that you remain at home and continue to worship online or with the printed service.  We understand if you do not feel secure about in-person worship and choose to worship from home.

However you choose to worship, know that we are worshipping together and that we continue to pray for each other and look out for our neighbour.


“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

~Winston Churchill


Our discomfort with grace manifests itself in all sorts of ways. It can be discomforting for us to engage the poor and the outcast of our society. It can be discomforting for us to welcome immigrants into our communities. It can be discomforting to address the pervasive racism that still surrounds us. And it can be very discomforting for us to open our lives to the transforming power of the cross of Christ, whereby “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt. 20:16).

Could it be that the more uncomfortable we become with the reckless love of God, the closer we are to understanding the meaning of grace?

Peace is always a fragile process. Far from being synonymous with pacts and strategic agreements, it is rather a profound attitude that must be rooted in hearts and in long-lasting institutions. The restoration of peace in the Holy Land, as various efforts over the decades have already shown, is a very fragile process. The impact of wars, the aftermath of violence, the hatred and the bitterness engraved on souls, social injustices, the compromised future of two peoples and the broken message of three religions in addition to the harmful consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic only accentuate, day after day, this fragility.

In this era of extreme fragility, creative solidarity is a sign of hope that, through the power of prayer and common action, we can make the restoration of peace and justice in the Holy Land both possible and a lived reality for all people of the region.

Call to Worship

Our God, Creator and Sustainer of all life

   instructs us to give generously and cheerfully.

We come, giving the funds, time, and gifts God has given us

   cheerfully and without hesitation or pressure,

Trusting that in our upside-down life of the Gospel,

   our wealth is measured not by what we have but what we give away.

We give joyfully as an act of our faith trusting you great God,

   to bless your church, your people, and your creation through our giving.  

CHILDREN’S SONG:    WOV 776  Be Thou My Vision


Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.


We are not alone; we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:  who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:  to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.  We are not alone.  Thanks be to God.


You are going to make an optical illusion.  Take a piece of paper – computer paper or lined paper, it doesn’t matter.  Fold it in half.  Draw the outline of a rainbow on the paper.  Cut out the rainbow.  You should have 2 half rainbows when you are done.  If you put the bottoms together, you should have something that looks like a donut.

            On one half of the rainbow write the word “US” in big letters.  On the other half of the rainbow, write the word “THEM”.  Make sure the word “US” is big enough so that it is about the same size as the word, “THEM”. 

        Now, find another person to see if the optical illusion works, or, try it in front of a mirror.  Here is what you do…

        Ask the person whom they think Jesus loves more:  US or THEM.  If they say THEM, hold the half rainbow with the word US on it in front of and a little lower than the half with the word THEM.  Here comes the optical illusion:  the person who is facing you will see that the US half seems larger than the THEM half.  So, you say, “Hmmm, it looks to me like Jesus loves US more than THEM.  That can’t be right!  Let’s switch this and see.”  Sure enough, when you put THEM in front and slightly lower than US, it seems that THEM is bigger.

        You say, “Hmmm, now it looks like Jesus loves THEM more than US!  Well, that can’t be right either!  Something fishy is going on!  Let me check this out!”

        Take both pieces of paper and place one on top of the other.  “Look!”, you say, “They’re both exactly the same size!  Jesus doesn’t love US more than THEM or THEM more than US.  Jesus loves everyone equally.  So then, WHY does one look bigger than the other if they are both the same size?”

        Good question!  The answer is…perspective.  And what is perspective?  That is how you see things from a certain angle, position or feeling.

        If I stand right in front of you and toss a ball to you, you see the ball and are able to catch it.  If I toss the ball and someone is sitting in a chair behind you, from their perspective, being lower, it may look like I am throwing the ball at your head, rather than at your hands. 

        In life, how we feel often affects our perspective on how we view certain situations.  If you have had a really bad day and you come home and see your parents hugging your brother or sister, you may suddenly find yourself feeling very sad, angry or jealous because they are getting a hug and you are not!  You may even think that your parents love them more than you!  This isn’t true, of course, but because you have had a bad day and are already feeling rotten, your perspective of the hug is probably going to be negative.

        But, suppose you had a wonderful day, and you come home really happy.  You see the same hug being given to your brother or sister only now, because you feel really great, instead of feeling hurt or angry or jealous, you say, “Hey!  That looks nice!  Can I get a hug too?!”  Same situation, different feeling, different perspective. 

        When we are feeling sad, angry or scared, or are going through a rough time, it is easy to feel like Jesus doesn’t care, that Jesus loves everyone else more than us.  In those moments, remember your rainbows. 

The truth is that Jesus loves all of us just the same, and sometimes we need to talk to someone about what is going on in our lives to make sure we keep our perspective, and our faith, in balance.  We need each other to get through life.  When life is tough is when we need each other the most. 



Our gifts for Mission & Service help maintain health clinics in devastated regions.

Our gifts for Mission & Service support the Near East Council of Churches in caring for children in the midst of the shattered infrastructure of the Gaza Strip.

Of particular concern are children suffering from malnutrition and anemia, both treatable illnesses. The clinics in Shijaia, Darraj, and Rafah estimate anemia and malnutrition affect about 10,000 children in these areas from newborn infants to age six. If treated in time, 60 percent of the children will fully recover.

Parents and children are welcome to come to clinics, and the Near East Council of Churches also runs outreach programs for families who need services and can’t get to clinics. In addition to the 10,000 children treated for illness, clinic staff will be able to carry out about 22,000 well baby checks per year. Children with more complicated diagnoses are referred to advanced diagnostic and therapeutic services.

The reality of living in the Gaza Strip is harsh. There are shortages of drugs. The Near East Council of Churches reports a shortfall of about 40 percent in essential drugs needed for mother and child health services. The exposure to health risks has increased, including the spread of communicable diseases, food insecurity, and psychosocial issues. The economic impact of the ongoing blockade and other factors means families have much more limited capacity to contribute to medical costs.

Mission & Service makes it possible for the Near East Council of Churches to address the challenges of providing medical care to children in the Gaza Strip.

If Mission & Service giving is already a regular part of your life, thank you so much! If you have not given, please join me in making Mission & Service giving a regular part of your life of faith. Loving our neighbour is at the heart of our Mission & Service.


Almighty God, you are the source of all light. You divinely separated light from darkness so that we may have the beauty of the light of day. Dear Lord, illuminate this day and enlighten us as we seek to know you through your word. May we be led by your light so our hearts may be opened to your word. We pray that we receive every word you speak to us today. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

First Reading: Jonah 3:10–4:11

After Jonah’s short sermon in 3:4, the Ninevites all repented and God decided to spare the city. Jonah objected to this and became even more angry when God ordered a worm to destroy a plant that was providing shade. The book ends with a question that challenges any who are not ready to forgive: You, Jonah, are all worked up about a bush, but shouldn’t I be concerned about a hundred and twenty thousand Ninevites?

10When God saw what  did, how they turned from their evil ways, God’s mind was changed about the calamity that God had said would be brought upon them; and God did not do it.

4:1But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 5Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

  6The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so, Jonah was very happy about the bush. 7But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 8When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

  9But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” 10Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Psalm 145:1-8

R:  The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Ps. 145:8)

1I will exalt you, my God and ruler, and bless your name forever and ever.
2Every day will I bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
3Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised!  There is no end to your greatness.
4One generation shall praise your works to another and shall declare your power. R
5I will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty and all your marvelous works.
6They shall tell of the might of your wondrous acts, and I will recount your greatness.
7They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness; they shall sing joyfully of your righteousness.
8The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. R

Second Reading: Philippians 1:21-30

Paul writes to the Philippians from prison. Though he is uncertain about the outcome of his imprisonment, he is committed to the ministry of the gospel and calls on the Philippians to live lives that reflect and enhance the gospel mission.

       21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

  27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29For God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus tells a parable about God’s generosity, challenging the common assumption that God rewards people according to what they have earned or deserve.

 1“The realm of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So, they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


In some developing nations the people gather daily in the town square looking for work in the hope that they will earn enough to feed their family for that day.  To not find work is to go hungry.  The strong and the young are chosen first.  They get the full day’s pay.  But the others, the old and infirm, remain in hope that someone will still choose them for work.  If more workers are required the employers will come back.  The strong who are still waiting are chosen first and just maybe there will be enough work for the old and infirm.  To not be chosen is to not eat. 

For all of these people who gather, work is not a luxury or something to avoid, it is essential for survival.  To hire a person at the end of the day is to provide the food needed to survive that day.

This parable is not a story about fairness, it is a story about sustenance.  The owner says to those who worked all day, “Friend I do you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual day’s wages?”  And we want to answer with the first chosen, “But…but.”

We want to read this parable as one about fairness, yet God is not cooperating with our wants.  There is the employer handing out the same wage to those who worked one hour as those who worked twelve.  If this parable has something to do with faith, it is still unfair.  When God checks the heavenly bank accounts, will there be no difference?  Perhaps God’s ways are not our ways but they should at least be fair!  Well, God does not play fair.

There was a newspaper story in the 1990’s of a man who sold his asphalt company for $422 million.  That was not the reason for the story, but it became a story worthy of newspaper attention when he gave $128 million to his workers.  For those with pensions he gave $2000/year for each year worked and for those without pension he gave between $1million and $2 million depending on years of service.

As you might expect the workers were overjoyed.  They were not simply without a job; they were set for life.  In a very self-effacing manner, the owner said he wanted to share some of his good fortune with those workers who had been loyal for so many years.  This was one of those feel-good stories that newspapers run on occasion, the odd, quirky sort of news.

Our reaction to such a story is one of amazement that someone could be so generous.  We might go so far as to say, “Well, he still has $300 million.”  No, this was truly a generous act toward employees who had no right to expect it.  This was truly a strange sort of generosity.  Whoever heard of a professional athlete saying, “I only need $60,000 to care for myself, so I will give the other $6 million away.  The bank CEO’s do not make news by announcing that their stock options for the year have been turned over to the poor in the inner cities.

This business owner is certainly not typical.  This is not good business practice.  It is at best off-beat and quirky.  Such generosity does not come naturally to many people.

There is an old proverb which states:  When we get what we deserve, that is justice.  When we don’t get what we deserve, that is mercy.  When we get what we don’t deserve, that is grace.  Clinging to our sense of fairness reveals how we misunderstand God’s ways.  God’s realm is not based on what is fair but on what we need.  We need grace; grace that overlooks all we are and all we have done and said; grace that allows us to stand in line hoping that God will smile upon us.  Fairness is not what we want because if fairness were the measure can any of us say that we have always been fair in our relationships with others?

Are we overjoyed that others received the grace of God no matter how little they seemed to deserve it by our measure?  For us to truly appreciate God’s grace is to be only too happy to see others receive what they need.

Today’s parable, and our immediate reaction to it, reveals that we may not always be motivated by grace. The pay for our labours, at first glance, seems fair, after all, we agree to the terms when we take the job.  But when the owner decides to give the same “daily wage” to those who worked less time, even one hour, those who were hired first are envious, jealous and resentful.  At least, if those who were hired last received so much, there must be a bonus in it for us! 

Again, it is not about what we deserve but about what we need.

We would feel more comfortable with a formula.  In last week’s gospel, Peter is looking for a formula for forgiveness.  “Is seven times enough?”  Today we hear the story of the workers in the vineyard.  Just prior to this text in Chapter19, a rich young man comes to Jesus to ask what good deeds he must do to enter the Realm of Heaven.  Jesus tells him to sell all he has and come follow.  Peter picks up on this story and says to Jesus, “We have given up everything!  What are we going to get?”  Peter still wants a formula.  Jesus tells the parable of the workers to say that there is no formula, God does not work that way!  The mathematics of grace is that everyone wins.  You only lose if you begrudge the fact that there are no losers.  To the hungry, God gives nourishment.

We do not live a moral and upright life so that God will love us, nor as a result of God loving us, but we do so as our response to the gracious love of God.  Our response demonstrates who we really are.  For those who have been faithful for so many years, there is the joy of living a faithful life.  Not everyone has had this opportunity.  For those who have come to faith later in life, God’s grace is no less wonderful.

We are all invited to be workers in the vineyard.  Knowing God’s grace that is offered to us, we want to let everyone know about this wonderful gift of God.  We want to spread the good news that Jesus died for everyone, to invite everyone to be a part of God’s commonwealth.

I close with a story by Anthony de Mello.  His stories always call us to see ourselves as one of the characters.  I leave it to each of you to determine that for yourselves:

The commonwealth of God is like two brothers who were called by God to give up all they had and serve humanity.

The older brother responded to the call generously, though he had to wrench his heart from his family and the girl he loved and dreamed of marrying.  He eventually went off to a distant land where he spent himself in the service of the poorest of the poor.  A persecution arose in that country and he was arrested, falsely accused, tortured and put to death.

God said to the older brother, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You gave a thousand talents’ worth of service.  I shall now give you a billion, billion talents’ worth of reward.  Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

The younger brother’s response to the call was less than generous.  He decided to ignore it and go ahead and marry the girl he loved.  He enjoyed a happy married life, his business prospered and he became famous and rich.  Occasionally he would give alms to the poor.

When it was his turn to die God said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have given me ten talents’ worth of service.  I shall give you a billion, billion talents’ worth of reward.  Enter into the joy of your Lord!

The older brother was surprised when he heard that his brother was to get the same reward as he.  And he was pleased.  He said, “Lord, knowing this as I do, if I were born to live my life again, I would still do exactly what I did for you.”


HYMN OF THE MONTH:  More Voices #12  Come Touch Our Hearts


Drawn together in the compassion of God, we pray for the church, the world, and all those in need.

God, you are our hope, we shall not let go.  You help us seek peace, justice, hope, and dignity for Palestinians and Israelis.  You lead us towards courageous actions.

With United Church partners Middle East Council of Churches, Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees, Defense for Children International—Palestine, Sabeel, and Kairos Palestine; with Lutheran partners Canadian Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran World Federation, ELCIC and ELCA, we faithfully journey to places of unrest, instability, and fear to advocate for the basic human rights of all people.  Support the peace-builders who are actively resisting the dehumanizing forces of violence and better proclaim the gospel of peace for your sake.  Even though there is uncertainty, indifference, and opposition, grant us the strength to continually seek an end to the occupation, so that Israelis and Palestinians can create a better future for themselves.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

Even as we dream of a time when Israel/Palestine will be a symbol of hope, peace, and reconciliation, help us to be mindfully aware of the volatile present.  Draw close to the multitude of injured and grieving people in the Holy Land; gather up the hopeless, and abide with the physically and emotionally oppressed; may your presence and your kin’dom comfort our siblings in their suffering.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

God, prepare tables of dialogue and opportunities for truth-telling around us. Open the hearts of hurting people so that they may witness small signs of hope.  Surely, with your help, we will continue to seek justice and resist evil, all the days of our lives, until all are able to live abundantly.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

Generous God, you make the last first, and the first last. Where this gospel challenges the church, equip it for its works of service. Strengthen those who suffer for Christ.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Sun and wind, bushes and worms, cattle and great cities—nothing in creation is outside your concern, mighty God. In your mercy, tend to it all. Give us a spirit of generosity toward all you have made.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

Tend to all in need of your compassion. Shelter all who are vulnerable in body, mind, or spirit.  We bring before you the Fulford family; the Heinrichs family; Art Ganske; Mike Froese; Brooke Alexiuk; Tracy Skoglund; Carolyn & Douglas; Gordon Dreger; Walter Dreger; Debbie & Dwayne.  Grant them solace and healing.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

All these things and whatever else you see that we need, we entrust to your mercy; through Christ our Lord.




May the blessing of Jesus, who announced God’s righteousness; of the Creator, who fills Earth with beauty, and of the Spirit, who nurtures awe, bless, inspire, and empower you. Amen.

SENDING SONG:  VU #675  Will Your Anchor Hold





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